Study: Socialist Darling Venezuela Experienced 86 Oil Spills in 2022

View of an oil spill on the shore of the Canales beach of Lecheria, Anzoategui state, Vene
STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images

CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuela experienced at least 86 oil spills in 2022, an average of seven such accidents a month, according to a report published by the Venezuelan Observatory of Political Ecology (OEP) on Tuesday.

The report, titled “Socio-Environmental Situation in Venezuela,” gives a detailed account of the environmental crisis that Venezuela currently faces, including the damages caused by the constant oil spills and accidents caused by the state-owned Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) oil company.

The Observatory’s findings determined that the frequency of oil spills has increased when compared to 2021, with the majority of the 86 accounted spills in 2022 having taken place in three of the nation’s states: Zulia, with 31 registered oil spills, followed by Falcón with 29, and Anzoátegui with 14.

The frequency of the spills in these states, according to the report, translates into the three states essentially suffering through constant oil spills all year long.

The Observatory explained that there is no official information whatsoever regarding the amount of oil spilled or the extent of the damage caused to the country’s marine and terrestrial ecosystems. No official information exists for any measures the Maduro regime may have taken to remedy the environmental impact after every incident, if any.

The socialist regime of dictator Nicolás Maduro, after bringing the infrastructure of Venezuela’s oil industry to a state of near-ruin via socialist mismanagement, has attempted to reactivate the nation’s refineries to boost its diminished oil output. In one such attempt, the Maduro regime’s failed efforts to reactivate the El Palito refinery caused a severe oil spill in 2020 that significantly damaged Venezuela’s Morrocoy National Park. The Maduro regime has also enlisted the aid of Iran to repair the nation’s rundown oil refineries.

“The Venezuelan population should have at its disposal detailed information on the number of barrels spilled, the dimensions of the affected areas and the actions that have been taken to remedy the environmental impacts after each incident,” the report reads. “However, no official information is available, while spills continue to occur and affect various communities in the country.”

On Monday, right before OEP’s report was released, the Venezuelan non-governmental organization (NGO) Mapache Ecoaventura raised the alarm after a new three-to-five-kilometer-long oil slick appeared on the shores of Lake Maracaibo, Zulia, Venezuela’s largest lake.
The president of Mapache Ecoaventura, José Sandoval, explained to the Spanish news agency EFE that the appearance of oil slicks of that kind are now a recurring problem that repeats around this time every year due to the change of winds — which, he explained, means that there are oil leaks in other parts of Zulia during other months of the year.

“There must be a leak or several leaks in the south of the lake, which have no solution because year after year it is patrolled as if it were a stationary issue, and it is not a stationary issue, it is an anthropic issue,” Sandoval said. “It is an issue of irresponsibility, of the inoperability of PDVSA.”

OEP’s report further explained that the oil spills have direct implications for both the affected communities and for those who live off of fishing and farming, as the oil damages their livestock, crops, and equipment without PDVSA issuing any kind of compensation for the damages.

For years, Zulian fishermen have had their trade significantly affected by the recurring oil spills in Lake Maracaibo and the worsening situation has now left many without jobs. It is very common to find both dead fish and birds due to oil spills in Zulia.

The report explained that, due to the near constant oil spills, fishermen from both Zulia and Falcón are forced to sail further and further away to find fish, which implies a greater cost of fuel — hard to find in Venezuela due to the ongoing shortages — and, in some cases, posing a risk to the fishermen’s lives when they have to move out to sea in small boats.

Fishermen from Falcón state denounced in June that, due to a combination of ten oil spills coupled with a gas leak that took place in the span of two years, the area’s natural reservoir of prawns has been wiped off.

In addition to the oil spills, OEP registered ten fires and explosions that took place in PDVSA facilities throughout 2022. The Observatory explained that, in most cases, “a fire is generated after an oil spill.” 

OEP also made special note of other accidents that have taken place in the nation’s state-owned basic industries, highlighting an accident at the state-owned bauxite and alumina producer CVG Bauxilum in September that caused an uncontrolled emission of aluminum oxide into the environment.

The aluminum oxide emissions led to citizens of Ciudad Guyana reporting symptoms such as allergies, throat and eye irritation, cough, and shortness of breath. Repeated exposure to aluminum oxide can cause lung damage.
The Venezuelan Observatory of Political Ecology concluded their report stating that there is “a pattern of abandonment of socio-environmental management by PDVSA, which implies that contingencies generated by the industry and the respective evils they cause in local populations have not been addressed.”

Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.